It’s a classic recipe, often the protagonist of Italian families’ Sunday lunch: it’s easy to prepare and very tasty, it combines the soft flavour of tomato sauce with the intense taste of cheese and fresh basil.
The preparation brings together some of the typical flavours of the traditional Southern of Italy cuisine from Campania: tomato, mozzarella, basil.
They are strictly served in “pignatielli”, low and rounded terracotta bowls, which, thanks to their slow heating, keep the heat for a long time even after having been baked in the oven.
In fifteenth-century Lombardy, gnocchi made of bread, milk, and ground almonds were called zanzarelli. In his 1570 cookbook, Bartolomeo Scappi has a recipe for “gnocchi” made from a dough of flour and breadcrumbs mixed with water and pushed through the holes of a cheese grater.
A little later, egg, flour, and water were introduced to the recipe, which became known as malfatti. The word means “badly made” and is still the name that Tuscans apply to their spinach and ricotta dumplings, gnudi. (I will post a recipe for gnudi soon).
In the nineteenth century, Pellegrino Artusi, the “grandfather” of Italian cuisine, published a recipe for potato gnocchi prepared in exactly the same way that we see today, complete with the story of a woman whose gnocchi disappeared in the pot she was boiling them in—because she hadn’t used enough flour to hold them together.
FOR THE GNOCCHI ALLA SORRENTINA
- 500 g of Russet or Baking potatoes
- 150 g of plain flour
- 250g of mozzarella cheese, torn into small chunks
- 8 basil leaves, roughly torn or basil pesto
- pecorino, grated (optional)
TO MAKE THE TOMATO SAUCE
- 500g of passata or cherry tomato
- 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Boil the potatoes whole, skin on, until cooked through. Drain then transfer to a bowl. Allow them to cool before peeling.
To make the tomato sauce, place the Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the garlic in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Remove the garlic when it is becoming golden. Add the passata or cherry tomato and cover and allow the sauce to cook for 5-6 minutes. Taste, season and keep warm
Peel the skins from the cooled potatoes and discard.
Scatter three-quarters of the flour over a work surface. Press the potato through a ricer (or vegetable miller) onto the flour, form the mixture dough. Dust the work surface with a little more flour and divide the dough into 4-5 pieces.
Roll out the dough into long cylinders, about the thickness of your thumb. Cut each length into segments (1 ½ -2 inches), then press each one onto a gnocchi board or fork to give them a ridged texture.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400 F
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt. Add the gnocchi and cook until they float on the surface, this should take approximately 2-3 minutes. Drain with a slotted spoon and place in the tomato sauce.
Stir and transfer to an oven-proof dish. Dress with mozzarella and basil. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the mozzarella, has melted or until the cheese is golden. Serve immediately.
For your reading and recipes library, check this book out: Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking: A Cookbook I loved it!